In the 1930s and 1940s when creating new stamp designs, Mexico's postal authorities occasionally "copied" photographs from the inventories of some of the leading makers of Mexican postcards. The instances are revealed in a study of Mexican maximum cards.
Considered as novelties or specialties, maximum cards have been a pursuit of stamp collectors since at least the 1920s. The creative collector tried to find a postcard that matched the image on a stamp as closely as possible and then placed the stamp on the face of the card. If the postmarking were done in the very town where the photograph was taken, or otherwise tied to the subject that the stamp commemorated, the maximum card was further enhanced. Such cards are fascinating because they bridge stamp and postcard collecting, the two most popular hobbies of their day.
Views taken by at least four well-known Mexican photographers can be identified with images that were later reproduced on stamps. German-born Hugo Brehme (1882-1954) photographed the Taxco street scene shown in this first example:
Brehme's depiction of the small street behind the Taxco church is unusual because the ornate front of the church is typically photographed, and not the back of the building. The unusual image on the stamp bears a startlingly close resemblance to the composition of the underlying real photo postcard. Stamp officials obviously adapted Brehme’s less "touristy" perspective for the Taxco stamp issued in 1939 (Scott 751). [The author wishes to thank the staff of the journal AMERICAN PHILATELIST for identifying the stamps appearing in this article. For the identification of the revenue stamps, see The Revenue Stamps of Mexico, by Richard Byron Stevens (Elmhurst Philatelic Society International, Inc., Elmhurst, Illinois, 1979.)]
As fascinating as the Taxco maximum card is, a cautious collector is justifiably wary of anything too good to be true. Both the card and the stamp shown above might be genuine, but couldn’t they have been united and postmarked many years afterward, and the date of the cancellation altered? One method of checking the authenticity of a given cancellation is to compare it with other cancellations from the same period in the same place. The maximum card above was canceled in Taxco on November 6, 1939. The postmark on ordinary postcard below shows that it was mailed in June. Except for the date, the cancellation is the same on both cards. Therefore, the cancellation on the Brehme maximum card of Taxco is authentic:
Photographer Rodolfo Mantel was a contemporary of Hugo Brehme. Foto Mantel published the following real photo postcard of Cuautla, Morelos, a town southeast of Mexico City. The 5-centavo revenue stamp on the right (Stevens CF398) reproduces the image on the postage in such minute detail as the placement of the palm fronds:
The green stamp on the left (Scott 684) is from a four-value series issued in October 1933 to honor the 21st International Congress of Statistics and the centenary of the Mexican Society of Geography and Statistics, whose emblem is shown. The cancel reads: "CORREOS/MEXICO D.F. / 9.OCT.33.15." However, there is no address on the back of the maximum card to indicate that it was postally used.